Community-managed land and affordable housing trialled in four cities in north-west Europe

European funds are being used to showcase a community-focused model for land and affordable housing solutions in four cities across Belgium, France and the UK. Currently in development, these pilot sites will be studied to assess how sustainable and inclusive communities can be launched elsewhere in Europe. The project aims to make information and expertise accessible to people hoping to launch their own initiatives.

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London’s first Community Land Trust site in St Clements. ©SHICC London’s first Community Land Trust site in St Clements. ©SHICC

" Community Land Trusts are democratic organisations that develop and manage homes that are affordable to people with low and median incomes, and remain affordable forever. CLTs create cohesive neighbourhoods through community and resident involvement. "

Caroline Lucats, housing department director, Ville de Lille

North-west Europe is facing a crisis of unaffordable housing. More than 26 million people across the European Union live in overcrowded or inadequate properties, according to the Abbé Pierre Foundation. Community land trusts (CLTs) could provide a solution, offering long-term, affordable homes for the vulnerable.

The Sustainable Housing for Inclusive and Cohesive Cities (SHICC) project will use pilot CLT sites in Brussels, Ghent, Lille and London to showcase how the concept works and how it could be replicated elsewhere.

Giving communities greater control

A CLT is a non-profit corporation that develops and operates housing, public buildings, commercial spaces and other community assets. In France, they are known as organismes de foncier solidaire. They help communities take greater control of their neighbourhoods and create housing better suited for all its residents.

The CLT model has existed in the United States for 50 years. It has proven successful in the UK. However, the concept failed to take off in urban areas and the EU.

Advocates of the model claim that CLTs balance residents’ interests with the long-term interests of the wider community by safeguarding house prices. Each CLT has a board of directors with a diverse mix of members. Typically the board is made up of residents or leaseholders and members of civil society.

By focusing on the community and training residents, CLTs aim to empower residents and strengthen social cohesion. SHICC will provide workshops and courses on issues such as energy consumption and building management for all four pilot trusts.

Sharing knowledge

The project’s pilots include five existing housing projects across the four cities with a total of 45 homes and nine more under development. Looking beyond the pilots, the project has successfully established a voucher scheme providing expertise to fledging land trusts.

The scheme emulates a UK system which has already successfully supported the CLT movement. Budding urban CLTs can use the vouchers to procure technical support such as architects, project management, and advice on finance and legal issues. Services have already been approved for trusts in the UK, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland.

So far, SHICC has enabled the start-up of 33 new urban CLTs. In 2020, it published a guide on setting up and running CLTs.

In France, the project has contributed to the launch of a national network bringing together all the CLTs which have been created there.

SHICC aims to help launch 66 urban CLTs to manage 250 homes and house 750 people with low to moderate income. The project will support the expansion of the CLT movement outside north-west Europe.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Sustainable Housing for Inclusive and Cohesive Cities” is EUR 2 953 652, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 1 772 191 through the “North West Europe” Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period.

Draft date

10/08/2020